Debating the Death Penalty
In June, Jeffrey E. Stern provided harrowing details of a botched execution (“The Execution of Clayton Lockett”). As prison officials scramble to find drugs for lethal injections, convicts appear to be physically suffering when they are put to death by the state.
Jeffrey E. Stern’s article demonstrates how well-meaning public servants are corrupted as they are pulled deeper into the nightmare of trying to give us something we cannot have: an easy, neat, and painless way of killing another human being.
The death penalty has become increasingly rare and disfavored because it does not enhance public safety. In 2014 there were only 72 new death sentences nationwide; 80 percent of the 35 executions that took place in 2014 took place in just three states (Texas, Missouri, and Florida). The Pew Research Center has found that public support for the death penalty for convicted murderers is at a 40-year low of 56 percent. Opposition has increased to 38 percent.
We all benefit from a criminal-justice system that is sensible and effective—a system that creates a safer society with less crime. Yet this is not what our current system is doing. The murder rate is lowest in the Northeast—the region with the lowest number of executions. In contrast, the South carries out the most executions of any region, and has the highest murder rate in the United States. We know that crime happens when other issues are neglected—insufficient mental-health services, a lack of safe and affordable housing, an outdated education system that does not prepare our future workforce.